Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Very Moving Funeral Service For Coretta Scott King Today

I watched Coretta Scott King's moving funeral service today. There were some very emotional and cathartic moments. But my primary impression was that it afforded a level of national, political respect that MLK, Jr. didn't get at his death or in the years before his birthday was declared a national holiday. It is perhaps appropriate that Coretta who worked so long and hard for civil rights for all people should get it now, even though it is late in coming.

Some of my own favorite highlights: the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference gave a memorable rhymed recitation, even referring to the lack of care for America's poor and working class as "Weapons of Misdirection here" in contrast to no "Weapons of Mass Destruction there," engendering a strong, standing, and sustained ovation. Maya Angelou pledged that she would never stop trying to make the world more peaceful and just so that she could see it through her eyes and "through Coretta's eyes." Former President Jimmy Carter spoke of his placement in 1974 of a portrait of MLK with Coretta inside the Georgia State House, with the Georgia Ku Klux Klan massed outside. He referred to his presidential run in 1976 when Coretta and "Daddy King" endorsed him; Mr. Carter said that their "hand shakes were worth a million Yankee votes," which drew a ringing ovation. Carter also made reference to the federal government's wire-tapping and intrusive, illegal FBI investigations of the Kings. Former President Clinton was his usual down-to-earth self, reminding the gathered crowd that Coretta was not simply a symbol, but a real woman who raised her kids and faced the frustrations of life that all of us do. Mr. Clinton stated that no one would have blamed Coretta if she had just left the Civil Rights movement the day after her husband was killed and focused exclusively on her family; but, as Clinton said, she showed up in Memphis to take her husband's place leading the poor sanitation workers in their march for Civil Rights. Clinton paralleled Coretta's response to our obligations, asking, "What are we going to do now?" He also mentioned the King Center in Atlanta and asked wealthy Atlantians what they were going to do to save the financially troubled Center now that its creator is gone, saying the "difficulty of success does not alleviate us from the obligation of acting."

All in all it was a memorable and moving service and properly due to Coretta Scott King.

1 comment:

  1. I was very sad to learn of Dr. King’s death in 1968. I was even more appalled that in a land of freedom, this kind of cruelty existed. I later embraced the powerful words of Dr. King’s, “I Have a Dream” speech at annual recitals in Kingston, Jamaica; without truly understanding the impact of the words or the struggles of those who sacrificed their personal life so that others could provide for their families equitably.

    I later developed the mantra that one truly has to live within the system to feel the brunt of the system. It was only during a college course in Connecticut many years later that I really understood the movement of nonviolence and the passion the Kings and others displayed in the name of equity, justice, liberty, equality, and fairness for all.

    Mrs. King’s depiction of the world’s “family dream” exemplifies a truly effective leader who boldly takes risks, despite the imminent danger. Back then, I am sure many of us would be terrified and cringe in fear that the same monster(s) who orchestrated the death of Dr. King and others would also target his wife. Needless to say, this did not prevent Mrs. King from continuing with the uphill battle she started with her husband several years before.

    Many immigrants are blessed recipients of the Civil Rights Movement. We can only honor the Kings’ life and the life of others, who despite ridicule and cruelty, sought justice for all by continuing the work they started. We can do so in subtle and profound ways from any organization, church, office, or station in life.

    My thoughts and prayers go to the family of Mrs. King for lending America and the world a mother, grandmother, sister, and friend to step into the fire and fight for others in unselfish ways. Mrs. King’s legacy of leadership, energy, passion, and her unwillingness to sit on the fence or at the “back of the bus” will outlive many of us. The Kings have made an indelible mark in the life of all Americans and the world. Truly, their life illustrates the teachings of Jesus. There is celebration in heaven - another angel has gone home.